Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o has learned plenty in the past year. When it comes to the NFL, he’s learned plenty in the past week.
Through his first five training-camp practices with the Chargers, the second-round pick has begun to figure out that the “little things” make the difference between the pro game and the lower levels of the sport.
“The running backs have vision,” Te’o said, via Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego. “You tell the running back to run to the right, he’ll run to the right, but if the hole is not there, he will bounce. You have your good running backs in college. Everybody here came from college. The best of the best is here.”
Te’o learned that lesson when he thought he had running back Ryan Mathews tracked down in the backfield. Until Mathews unexpectedly cut and sped away from Te’o.
The former Notre Dame standout also has learned quickly from tight end Antonio Gates the difficulty of covering NFL-caliber wideouts.
“With a lot of guys, you can kind of tell what they’re going to do,” Te’o said. “With Gates, you can’t. I think that’s the biggest difference between college and the pros. In college, you can, for the lack of a better word, you can cheat a little, you can predict what people are going to do before they do it.”
To help him react to what players on offense do, T’eo is 16 pounds lighter than his top weight in college. While that may make it harder for him to dish out and take physical poundings, the modern NFL places a much greater premium on linebackers covering receivers.
The linebackers who can’t will be off the field on third downs. For Te’o that could be the difference between perceived success and failure in the NFL.